I am writing as a local community member and steadfast advocate for passenger rail.

Historically, the greater Lewiston-Auburn community and Maine have been, and continue to be, those with pride. They strive to be self-sufficient, as well as frugal in any decision-making.

There have been years of regional and state-requested — funded and non-funded — research, discussions and dedication that have been put toward analysis of public transportation options.

These processes have looked at short- and long-term benefits, as well as expenses and funding methods for both avenues — passenger rail and bus line expansion.

The greatest concerns for many individuals within the state are the economic and environmental impacts.

As in many other states, Maine faces the realities that funds are being sought by multiple well-deserving programs, where not every organization benefits in the end, unfortunately.

I, and many other rail supporters (including legislative and Canadian benefactors), continue to advocate at the local and legislative level for returning passenger rail between Montreal and Portland via Lewiston-Auburn.

Personally, I do not take an “us-versus-them” approach. I understand and appreciate the feasibility of providing diversified, yet cohesive transportation approaches for Maine.

Diesel multiple units, electric hybrid trains, utilized all over the world, are the units the Maine passenger-train-expansion advocates are building the passenger rail cause around.

There are several economic benefits from passenger rail expansion, both external and internal, including:

• Years of dedicated Montreal residents, as well as other Canadians, continue to query and hope for non-personal automobile transportation options for tourism into Maine, especially to Old Orchard Beach, as well as a great deal of ridership coming up into the state, with particular focus on central and western Maine and beyond to Montreal. Central and western Maine already have a great deal to offer those customers that would bring a healthy, sustainable passenger rider population.

Internal benefits include:

• Easing of road congestion due to less traffic, resulting in a greater accrual of value-added time for each commuter.

• Reduced wear and tear on the roads, resulting in reduction of annual bond funding for state road/highway repairs.

• Individual commuter fuel consumption cost savings.

• Financial support for local commerce, by bringing customers to their door. Many communities (such as Lewiston-Auburn and towns in central and western Maine) have so much value to bring to Maine, yet more often are overlooked/overshadowed by the bigger cities as a destination people would visit. Adding multiple stops upon the anticipated expansion route would directly connect customers to these great businesses.

• A benefit to the environment because of emissions reduction and well-controlled surrounding land conservation.

• Would benefit commuters. The amount of commuters between Androscoggin County and Portland continues to rise. Allowing for passenger rail would provide alternative transportation options (as seen in the areas surrounding big cities around the world, similar to that of Boston.

• Local colleges have a long-standing out-of-state, as well as commuter population from surrounding towns. Many students go car-free for part of or their entire college career. Providing passenger rail gives that large population of resident and commuter students the transportation network they would utilize to easily access their local and distant destinations.

• And then there is the nostalgic, aesthetic appeal. Many generations still enjoy what it feels like to ride a train, be it for the first or the 50th time — the exhilaration, the comfort and the ability to get up and walk around while still travelling to a destination. There is nothing like it.

So call me what you will — a practical yet dedicated dreamer, a frugal lover of history and practical progress, someone who is economically and environmentally conscious or a local supporter with a travel bug — I support passenger rail coming to Lewiston-Auburn and Montreal.

Whitney King-Buker is a volunteer with the Maine Rail Transit Coalition. She lives in Minot.

Whitney King-Buker

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